A trip to Italy puts you in perspective

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Marsha and I just got back from our big trip to Italy. We had never been there before. Back in 1975 we went to Paris and London, but I got pneumonia, and I drank too much, so this is the first trip to Europe that I remember.

Now there was a time when affluent young people went to Italy as part of their Grand Tour. Times have changed. Today, middle class seniors go to Italy. In fact, Italy is pretty much Disneyland for Baby Boomers, but instead of long lines for Space Mountain, there are long lines for the Sistine Chapel.

Going to Italy is like eating a boiled lobster dinner. There are good parts, and there are bad parts. Let's do the bad parts first. It was really crowded in Venice and Rome. I felt like an ant scurrying along in search of restaurants and museums. I wonder if an ant ever wants to punch another obnoxious ant.

Then there was the cab driver who ripped us off at the Rome train station. Welcome to the Eternal City! Our hotel rooms were small. Some of them didn't have those little bottles of shampoo, but they all had bidets. I never really figured out this little porcelain mystery. I can report that I'm pretty certain they are not for shaving or washing your feet.

I almost left out the worst part — getting to and from Italy. We flew economy on Alitalia. Every tiny little seat was filled, and it took 10 hours each way. I was trapped in a cramped space with no way to sleep. At least I wasn't waterboarded. I thought Italy was our ally. When we boarded the plane in Rome to return to home, the scene was very similiar to the last helicopter leaving Saigon. Crazy.

But there were lots of good parts. The best was our hotel in Amalfi. It was a Moorish castle built in the 12th century. No, I lied. It was built in 1963, but it was awesome, and it looked like a Moorish castle built in the 12th century. It was perched high overlooking the beautiful bay. Marsha and I watched the sun and moon rise. The sparkling moonbeams on the water at night was positively inspirational. Like Lord Byron, I was moved to write a poem, but I couldn't find a rhyme for risotto. Too bad. It would have been a good poem.

Travel to Italy reminded me that I am just one little man out of billions living in a world thousands of years old. The glory of the Roman Empire has come and gone. St.Peter's, the Sistine Chapel and the David have never been equaled. I now understand modern art — after Michaelangelo, his successors just gave up. We are a part of something much greater. For every Hitler, there is a Bernini. For every Stalin, a Raphael.

Perspective is an important gift. I'm glad I went to Italy.

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